Babies force couples to reinvent bond


They tell you again and again: Your life will never be the same. The illusion of controlling your time dissolves. Privacy and a full night's sleep become vague memories. Your relationship with your spouse is forever altered.

Few couples really believe a tiny new baby can create such an explosion in their lives. Yet the stress can be so intense the first few years that some couples cannot last long enough to raise their children together.

Laurie Basoren, 35, of Los Angeles, had read a shelf full of books on pregnancy and child care before son Troy was born nine months ago. She and her husband, Sinan, had also thought they knew about daily commitment for a third person after they spent months caring for a dying friend. "It's a lot different," she said, "when this helpless person is really your own and there's such complete and total responsibility for every single thing you do and everything is going to affect the child for life. We didn't realize how overwhelming it would be."

Because Laurie works days and Sinan works nights, she wound up exhausted after a day's work and then being home alone shouldering the responsibility of the baby. "It was frustrating. You start to build up resentment and anger," she said.

She had heard the maxim that it takes an entire village to raise a child. But in the Basorens' case, extended family members were scattered worldwide. Others say relatives can be more irritating than helpful. Even best friends have limits on how much they can do. With helpful villagers few and far between, new parents often wind up riding the roller coaster alone, forgetting who they were B.C. -- before children.

"We become different people in many ways when children come into our lives," said Linda Salazar, a wife and mother who started a communications workshop for new parents. "We need to reintroduce ourselves to our partners and to the world."

The workshop, called "From Partners to Parents," which costs $129 a couple, is not aimed at couples with deep troubles. But all some couples need is a break and some tools to see each other in the positive way they once did, re-establish their goals and find time for one another, she said.

She and her husband nearly separated seven years ago when they had their son. By working at it, she said, they are now more in love than they were before they became parents.

Ultimately, reconnecting makes couples better parents, Salazar said. "When a couple feels good about themselves as a unit, they are better at parenting and they have a happier child."

Referred to the Culver City, Calif-based workshop by her labor coach, Mrs. Basoren said she learned that her husband "was afraid I was regretting having the baby, which I wasn't. I was just frustrated I had a C-section and was surprised at how long it took me to get over that."

Sergio and Alida Ferreira said before they had their two children, now 5 years old and 3 months old, they rarely argued. Then the conflicts seemed constant: money, attention, child-rearing. After the second child, a therapist suggested the workshop.

"The most important part was when you try to remember what brought you together in the first place," Alida recalled. "When you would look at his eyes and felt your heart bumping and get all watery. I felt so bad, causing him pain by me talking about divorce.

"It helped me realize Sergio is a good man. I'm very happy he stuck by me and hasn't let me be influenced by my feelings. Otherwise, I'd be divorced with two children and no father."

Sergio said tears came to his eyes during the workshop. "We realized we just fell into the everyday pressures."

Now they set aside an hour each Tuesday and Thursday night after their children are asleep to talk -- positively -- to one another.

Their marriage is not a perfect 10. "I would like a nine at least," Alida said. "It's all working at it."

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